Last Night was The Grammys

Christ is Glorious. 

the-lamb-2

Last night was the Grammys, the annual homage to music icons and celebration of the previous year’s “bests”. It is one of the ubiquitous Hollywood celebrations of the arts that is equal parts show, puff, drama, politics, and glorification of music and musicians.

It is part of the machine of the culture that sends thousands of people each year to the entertainment capitals of the United States, New York, and Hollywood, in search of stardom. Dreams of worldwide fame, names in lights, immense wealth, and associations with the world’s rich and famous dance through their heads.

This is not just an American phenomenon. All around the world, there is a love affair with fame and status. America’s love affair with its music, film and TV idols at times borders on insanity. Teenagers have been known to slash their wrists in despair over not receiving a response to a fan letter. People have suffered from exposure and frostbite spending nights and days “camped out” at ticket windows hoping to get close enough to touch their music idols. All this, to express their worship and praise for the achievements of their idols.

worthy-is-the-lambSome adults regularly make pilgrimages to the graves of people like Elvis Presley and John Lennon.

Now the surprising thing about all of this is that, according to the Scriptures, God is the author of the star system. The Scripture makes it clear that He has structured into the universe a flow of attention, adoration, and privilege in which both men and angels are involved. There is something in the way God has created the nature of both men and angels, that must be expressed in worship and praise.

There is an impulse in the human heart to worship. We all worship something. We all desire to worship something. The problem is, we generally don’t worship well or in the right direction.

At the center of God’s design is the exaltation of Christ.

One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10). Some will worship Him with joy – because they know Him to be their Lord and friend, forgiver and lover. Some will worship him in terror – because they never recognized Him as the Lord and Savior of their life.

Six times in the Bible, God says that he is a jealous God. He desires and deserves worship and praise and Glory. In fact, the praise of His name and the glory of His person will one day fill the earth. Here’s how the prophet Habakkuk puts it Habakkuk 2:14:

14 “For the earth will be filled
             With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
                     As the waters cover the sea. [1]

All of time and space is moving toward that moment when His glory will fill the earth. So in the book of Revelation, you have this description of the scene in heaven at the end of time.   

Revelation 4:8–11 (ESV)

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11  “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”

And then one chapter later . . .

Revelation 5:6–14 (ESV)

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain,
and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10  and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Knowing that that is where all of history is headed, the apostle Paul is zealous to protect the purity of worship. He wants the churches in his charge to pursue Christ with a passion that never loses sight of the wonder and glory of the Savior. And that is what the book of Colossians is all about–the glory of Christ. In the end, there will be only one true “star.” His name is Jesus.

[1] The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.

When Friends Fail You

Part of the “Poetry Project”*

Read Psalm 69

Rejection 2Psalm 69 and 70 were the evening readings on the schedule last night (three nights ago). I read two verses that I don’t remember reading in the other 200 plus times I have read the book of Psalms. Of course, that last sentence is both improbable and impossible. You can’t read the Psalms 200 hundred times and not read a verse. It is a logical impossibility. Or is it?

I remember  a conversation I had with my son. We were driving back from South Dakota where he had finished up another year of college. It was a long drive. I asked him if he saw something that we had just passed. He said yes. Then I asked him a question about what he saw and he was unable to answer. “My dear Watson, you saw,” I said, “but you did not observe.” We both smiled not only at my Sherlock-Holmesian comment but because we knew that not only was that the case, but both of us knew of many times where we had seen something but failed to observe what we had seen truly.

So last night was one of those times for me. Verse 30 and 31 screamed to be seen, really seen. They screamed to be noticed and applied. They shouted at my heart that there was something to be plumbed, something to be understood. I made a note to think about them again. Perhaps I would try to do what David said he was going to do.

I will praise the name of God with a song;
.     I will magnify Him with thanksgiving;
This will please the LORD more than an ox
.     or a bull with horns and hoofs.

I turned to my bride, told her about the verse I had “seen,” kissed her goodnight and turned out the light. An hour later I was up, wide awake, still thinking about that verse. So here I am at 2:18 AM writing my way to clarity. 

The psalm is 36 verses long, so the verses that arrested my attention (vs.30-31) are near the end of David’s meditation. He describes a desperate situation. He is in over his head. Fathoms stretch out below him and the waves are crashing over his head like liquid-hammers threatening to pound him into the deep. He has no foothold, nothing to grasp and keep him afloat—except a prayer, a parch-throated cry for rescue (vs. 1-3). He has been waiting for God to “show up” crying out his need and both his eyes and his soul are growing weary (vs. 3).

His heart is broken. His friends have turned against him.

Rejection 1He had served his people, loved his people, sought to follow God before his people, but his enemies in the kingdom have multiplied. They have power and have used lies to undermine him and attack him. Those who hated him without cause (vs. 4) seemed to be more numerous that the hairs on his head. (I hope he was bald!)

Yet he knew, as all men must, that he was not blameless (vs. 5). He knew that he could not plead complete innocence before the all-seeing eye of God. His enemies had some fuel for their machinations that he had supplied. It grieves him.

Yet even in his sorrow at their betrayal, at the multiplied enemies in his court, he fights for those who put their hope in the LORD God of hosts. “Let not those who hope in you be to put to shame through me. … Let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me.” (vs. 6) David chooses the high road. If he must go down, let him not add to the hardship of his people. That is never an easy road to travel, especially when your heart cries over perceived injustice, but it is the path that glorifies God. And so, the choice is made easier for the Christian. 

As we taught our children, “It’s always right to do the right thing,” even when the right thing is personally hard, potentially painful, and filled with unknowns. God can be trusted in those times too.

So my prayer, and yours when friends desert you, when they no longer believe in you, when you’re feeling alone, and broken, and bruised, and lost, and when fear begins to rise and threatens to undo or shake your trust in God, when your sorrows mount and “like sea billows roll,” let your heart follow David’s lead and sing a song of praise (vs. 30). Magnify Him with thanksgiving and teach your soul what it has forgotten (vs. 31). Let worship remind you that … 

He is still God, and you are still His.

My Song on a Fearful Monday

“I am yours O God.
Let my heart say, ‘I am yours.’
And let that be enough.”

When I am weary Lord
When darkness crowds my view
When the water’s deep
and the waves are a tower

Let my heart remember  Your steadfast love
Let my heart recall Your mercy.

Let me teach my heart again
“I am yours O God.
Let my heart say, ‘I am yours.’
And let that be enough.”

.
*
In December of 2009 or thereabouts, my son, Marty Schoenleber III (aka, Marty S. Dalton), put a video up on
 Youtube.com. It inspired me to keep working on a project I thought of a couple of years ago. The idea is to write a poem of personal reflection for each Psalm in the psalter. 

  • Don’t think of any as high art. Think of these offerings as one poor man’s desire to draw nearer to Christ. New entries will generally appear on Sunday afternoons.
  • One more thing: It is always best to read the psalm or the verses being commented on first.  This link will take you back to a list of all the “poems” that have been written so far, Poetry Project.

Go to Psalm 70.

The Only Resolutions You Need

Sunday Musings

people-praying-for-revival3
What Does the Beginning of Revival Look Like?

“Behold, the LORD’S hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.”  

—Isaiah 59:1-2 (NASB)

“Personal revival begins when the believer
faces his sin honestly.”

(Jim Elliff)   

Yes.

The hand of God is ready, powerful, yearning to save. His ear is attentive to the voice of His people. He delights in demonstrations of extravagant love for his people. “For God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“But …” Isaiah says.

“But” means there is a problem.  

Our “iniquities have made a separation.” The word translated “iniquity” is the Hebrew (עון, avon). It is one of three primary words in Hebrew for sin. The meaning and nuance of this particular word is of a breaking of law that is a perversity, a depravity punishable by a judge. In the case of Israel, God was the judge and tells the nation that it is perverse that they have turned from Him and separated themselves from Him.

And the result?  Their sins had “hidden His face” so that “He does not hear.”

To any genuine Christian, to any genuine God-seeker, those words are harrowing. That God would hide His face from us is frightening. That He would not hear, i.e. respond to our prayers, is to be alone in the world and subject to the caprice of forces that war against us.

God, through Isaiah is seeking to draw our hearts back to intimacy by alerting us to the danger of effect-less prayer and shallow pursuits of God. And so, I think Jim Elliff nails it at the beginning of his short primer on personal revival, “Personal revival begins when the believer faces his sin honestly.” 

It begins there.
It continues there.
And it progresses from there.

No revival is possible without an honest, often painful look, at the “separation” between God and us. When your walk with God feels like a parched and dry desert, OR when it feels orthodox but passionless, God is calling you to Himself. 

western-sahara-desert-scape

So, these five resolves for personal holiness are the only resolves you need in the New Year.(Here’s the LINK to “Five Resolves for Personal Revival.”)

An oasis is close by. It is God Himself. Run to Him. 

It’s Advent Season. Rejoice!

Monday Reflection

Advent
Everything the World Needs Right Now

I love this post from my internet friend, insanitybytes22. I love her wit and I love her perspective on life. This particular post struck a chord in my soul. I too have a visceral distaste of whiners. But she is not just venting here. She is pointing us to the way of gratitude, to the way of worship.

I confess this issue I have with whiners because I don’t want this post to sound too harsh, but I grew up within militant atheism and was not allowed to read a bible. I could not go to church or worship. I literally had to pray in secret. Ever taken communion alone? That’s a real oxymoron.

People don’t always understand how privileged they are, how much freedom they have until they lose it. Every single time I walk into a church or even a bible study, I never forget where I came from, how blessed I am today to have the freedom to worship. It never leaves my mind, it is that burned into my brain. My faith has been a real struggle, so every time I see other Christians engage in worship or praise or prayer, it feels like Victory to me. I don’t even have to know you, I just need to see you, somewhere, anywhere, giving praise or praying. Heck, I’ve been known to follow cars down the road just because they have a “Jesus is Lord” bumper sticker on them. Those crosses people sometimes put up on their houses, those matter to me. My eyes never stop scanning and seeking evidence of people’s faith and every time I spot it, I think of Victory, Jesus Christ’s victory on the cross.

My own struggles are nothing compared to what some people in the world are going through right now. There are atrocities happening that I cannot even bear to think about. Even right here safely at home there are people suffering grief and loss and the storms of life that threaten to swallow us all up. None of us really get through life unscathed and none of us can do it alone.

Indeed. None of us can do it alone. We need one another. We need our flawed and irritating church friends, even the whiners. So this Christmas season, make sure that you are looking up to the One who took on flesh so He could lay it down in sacrifice for you. He came. He lived. He died. He rose. He ascended. He is coming again. And because of all that He did, everyday till He does return is a victory, no matter what battles might be fought today. Remember that.

The Nation’s Only Hope is Getting More Knees on the Ground

Monday is for Praying for a New Country

PrayerYou’ve heard it said that to be victorious in a military battle you must have the “most boots on the ground.”
Conversely, to be victorious in a spiritual battle, you must have the most “knees on the ground.”

The mysterious character “Eli”
to his young pastor friend Elmo
in the novel

The Old Man and the Tea,
by McMillian Moody

Six months into 2015 and the Supreme Court has given new reason for the people of God to bend their knees in prayer. Wherever your church is,

North, South  East or West,

wherever it meets,

a home, a school, under a tree, a bar, a building, a warehouse, or a cathedral,

do everything in your power,
everything in your ability

to help your church put more “knees on the ground” for every spiritual battle you know of and for all the ones you don’t.

 Revised from an earlier post for a post Supreme court ruling on same-sex marriage.